Art going in architecture on Patrick’s Hill

CORK CITY will have a new landmark design building later this year, in one of it most prominent settings - half way up the vertiginous St Patrick’s Hill. A school redevelopment there has been designed by the winners of the 2015 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey.

Art going in architecture on Patrick’s Hill

The couple head up the globally-recognised practice O’Donnell + Tuomey, which is now on site at the multi-million euro new St Angela’s School building project. It involves integrating a number of Victorian buildings with new, multi-layed structures, on a complex and highly visible hillside site.

Now, this week the chance to design an artwork to be sited at the completed school for 530 pupils is up for offer under the One Percent For Art scheme, via the National Sculpture Factory. The commission is worth €50,000 — the kudos of siting a work in an O’Donnell + Tuomey project will be as rewarding, given their preeminence and global recognition.

O’Donnell + Tuomey previously delivered Cork’s Glucksman Art Gallery in the grounds of UCC in 2005: ever since it’s been one of the city’s must-see buildings for art, design and architecture fans.

Last year, their London School of Economics Saw Swee Hock Students’ Centre, an extraordinary, soaring achievement in brick on a medieval London infill site, won international plaudits, and they’ve also delivered the new (2012) Lyric Theatre in Belfast among a host of cultural and educatinal buildings — with St Angela’s now joining that august roll-call.

The couple have been nominated five times for the UK’s RIBA Stirling Prize, and the only previous Irish winners of the RIBA Gold Medal have been Michael Scott in 1975, and engineer Peter Rice, 1992.

Given their pedigree, the challenge of building on a site as steep and multi-layered as St Patrick’s Hill for the 125-year old St Angela’s School may not be a walk in the park (the architects’ firm describes it as “a very complex significant site on St Patrick’s Hill in the north inner city of Cork”) — but it will have an interconnected courtyard and gardens, plus retained orchard, among its 19th- to 21st-century elements, some rising four and five storeys, with two lifts, new science wing, new art wing, and a PE hall at its lower level whose roof will serve as an outdoor terrace.

Already, its distinctive outline (and the sentinel, castellated Bruce College building above the 19th century Ursuline Convent) are visible from many city quarters.

After a 20-year build-up to its redevelopment, and making-do with portacabins, the school moved temporarily in 2013 to the old St Patricks’ Hospital/Marymount at St Luke’s Cross, by Griffith College, due to move back in early 2016.

By then, something quite special will be delivered on the city’s hillsides and skyline — a lesson in design.

MEANWHILE, artists interested in the €50,000 art commission being administered by the National Sculpture Factory must register their interest by Feb 20, with site visits with school authorities and project architects on March 11/12.


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